SINGAPORE: Ride-hailing operator Grab has stopped plans to suspend a driver incentive scheme, following an uproar from private-hire car drivers here.
The Singapore-based company is however proceeding with plans to peg the level of support given as part of a COVID-19 assistance package to driver performance.
Last week the Government announced a S$77 million package to help taxi and private-hire car drivers whose livelihoods were affected due to the coronavirus outbreak, with some drivers reporting as much as a 30 per cent drop in income.
Of the S$77 million, to be paid out over a three month period, S$45 million would come from the Government, while the rest would come from taxi and ride-hailing companies.
On Thursday (Feb 20), Grab announced that while all drivers would get the S$70 per week provided by the authorities, its share of the aid would be based on what incentive tier the drivers are in.
Those in the upper tiers would be able to get S$85 a week, while those in the two lower tiers would only be eligible to get S$45 a week.
What tier a driver is in is based on factors such as how often drivers accept bookings, and their in-app rating from customers.
Grab also said it would be suspending its ongoing Super Steady Streak incentive scheme, which gives bonuses to drivers who are able to hit at least 200 trips a month.
This led to concern among drivers, who saw the move as an attempt by Grab to turn a COVID-19 aid package into an incentive scheme.
Private-hire car driver John Fernandis told CNA the move would reduce driver’s income.
“What we are unhappy about is they will remove drivers' monthly Streak incentive and weekly Gems incentive and replace it with the COVID-19 aid, which is less,” said the 59-year-old, who has been driving for Grab for about two years.
“How is this going to help us?”
Noting it had received feedback over the “allegedly unfair terms and conditions” set by Grab, the National Private-Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) - which represents drivers - to meet with the ride-hailing firm as well as representatives from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to investigate the matter.
“Following our conversation, Grab has agreed to extend the Super Steady Streak scheme until May 2020, and that there will be continued discussions between Grab and NPHVA to review the scheme,” said NPHVA advisor Ang Hin Kee.
The LTA said it had asked Grab to “consider their drivers’ feedback carefully and to review if adjustments need to be made to better support them during this period”.
In response to media queries, Grab said it understood the concerns of drivers and had taken into account their feedback.
A Grab spokesperson said the way the scheme was structured was “designed to prop up earnings for our broad base of driver-partners who qualify for the Special Relief Fund, and to enable them to bring home fixed amounts of earnings during these volatile and challenging times.”
“Our primary intent was to provide better earnings security for our driver partners, especially when we have seen a decline in rides per driver-partner, mostly due to decreased commuter demand and drop in tourist arrivals,” she said, adding the firm had seen a 20 per cent drop in bookings, which it expected to decline further in the coming months.
“Operators must look at how they can help drivers to cope with business costs (such as) rental, fuel and commission (and so on), as well as how they can better boost ridership by offering short-term promotions to commuters,” said Mr Ang, who is also assistant director-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
Private-hire driver Mr Fernandis said he was happy with the outcome.
“Grab has the right to remove the Super Steady incentive and Grab drivers are prepared for the eventual termination of all incentives,” he said.
“Our anger arose from the fact that Grab tried to terminate the Super Steady (incentive) by repackaging it as a COVID-19 relief package.”
Taxi operators ComfortDelGro and SMRT, as well as ride-hailing firm Gojek, have also introduced their own packages to support drivers, with the two cab companies also announcing rental rebates for drivers during this time.